My Original Story
My journey into the world of Art is closely connected with my quaint village of Saligao.
For several years now, I had a wish to do up our Saligao cemetery and had approached a few friends who told me that it was easier said than done.
After the death of my young son Craig, an Engineering student who suddenly passed away in his sleep in December 2011 due to an undiagnosed heart ailment, this urge grew stronger.
Visiting his grave, especially during the monsoons, was like taking a walk in a jungle. Thick bushes, waist high grass and of course, plenty of God's creepy, crawly, colorful creatures!
Around 2009, I had taken up art, another great hobby of mine, since both my sons were away from home pursuing further studies in Bangalore and Manipal, and my husband was abroad. It was a much loved childhood hobby which I gifted to relatives and friends. Soon after I began getting small "orders", which I did for fun, collecting enough money to just cover my costs and to experiment. The Last Supper, Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary, portraits, pet dogs, the Saligao church, were among the most requested for paintings.
One evening during the monsoon season while I was at Craig's grave, all cleaned up amongst the other 'neglected' graves, I decided to do something. I had just read a book "Feast, Feni and Firecrackers" written by Mel De Souza, a son of Saligao, now settled in Canada. It was about the life of a village school boy (his life) in Portuguese Goa. It had a lot of sketches of scenes of Saligao, of the old days. Inside was a treasure trove of Saligao's collective memories. What caught my eye was an illustration of the "Feast of Names". It was a whimsical scene of Saligao villagers portrayed by their family nicknames. I thought to myself - while staring at the other graves in the cemetery - just maybe I could get these very "nicknames" to help clean up this huge cemetery!' After all, most of them were also resting here. I decided to write to Mel De Souza and request his permission to replicate this illustration on canvas. The idea was to sell this painting to generate funds for the cemetery work. Mel was delighted and readily obliged.
To my amazement, that unfinished painting caught the eye of some relatives and friends who were paying us a condolence visit one Sunday morning. Though they were settled abroad, they had their roots in Saligao and were literally fighting to own it. (one was from Dubai , one from Canada and one from UK!). They were arguing in my living room! I had just finished one painting and to avoid friction .. decided to make a few canvas prints - and so my story began. I decided to use my son's name as my artist pen name. This is how my "Cemetery cleanup project" began.
Word of this charming painting, together with the "Images of Saligao" and "Saligao Foxes " got around. It's intriguing characters not only amused the old, it captivated the new generation. Some didn't know that their family had a nickname. These nicknames told a story or how their ancestors walked, their roots, their attitudes, their values and beliefs. A nickname was given because it characterized a feature that was unique to the occupants of a household in Saligao. My prints found their way to many families from Saligao who resided in Canada, UAE, UK, Australia and the USA. With the proceeds of this, I offered to sponsor the clean up of cemetery to our Church Fabrica. They were only too happy to say yes and working together with the Vicar and the Fabrica, we commenced work by hiring a few labourers. Like minded friends from the village joined me and we formed a volunteer group - SHALOME. My dream - our dream was now a reality.
Initially, getting labour itself during the monsoons, was the biggest challenge. Supervising them in the pouring rain was another! We just took turns and got the job done. The church did not have a separate cemetery fund and neither did we. So how to manage going forward? Through various contacts I had made with Saligaonkars in the village and abroad, I began collecting pledges towards various needs of the cemetery. SHALOME now helps the Church Fabrica to get sponsors directly to pay for a job. We just identify the work needed to be done - get the Fabrica's approval and then get to work. We publish our work in the Church bulletin when we can. The Fabrica helps in getting an estimate for a particular job. So far we have cleaned the well, established a new water supply, sprayed weedicide re landscaped the front garden etc. We have cleaned the cemetery several times already. We are also joined by Mr. FARMER, a professionally organized Agri-Horti company, brainchild of Rozendo Mendonca, who formed this company ... three decades ago. He is a son-in-law of Saligao and has generously offered to donate plants at cost price and his valuable time and inputs for the continued upkeep of the cemetery.
Our long-term maintenance will be extremely challenging. The cost of labour being the biggest problem. Therefore I decided to turn my hobby of painting into a profession. I have done a few original paintings and decided to sponsor some of the work with part of the profits from the sale of my art work. Thus far, people have been generous and kind and my art work has been very well appreciated. It has also made me feel stronger and definitely brought about some healing within me.
In February 2014, I was approached by a group "Art Insipired" They wanted me to join their group exhibition. Two of my original artworks were selected for a group exhibition called CHITRASANGAM at the ESG Art Gallery. Ten artists from Goa participated in this event which was inaugurated by the Governor of Goa. I was both, humbled and honoured to be recognized by a few artist friends! Most of them self taught like myself!
I am now full time into painting and have had two SOLO exhibitions already. Most of my artworks are based on Goa's scenic beauty, spirituality and nature done in abstraction. I have also had the confidence of experimenting on my own unique technique called syringe painting. Here I use a syringe to transfer fluid paint on canvas and it results in some interesting effects.
I hope to continue helping our Church Fabrica and the villagers of Saligao, in sponsoring the cleanup of the cemetery at least twice a year so that our loved ones can rest in a clean and beautiful place all the year round. In retrospect, it seems to me that the 'nicknames' were right behind me all along!
Making light of a grave situation!
(A few pictures of the cemetery cleanup in these past 3 years)